A Letter from an Older Angkor Dictation Participant

Intrigued by the natural beauty along the boulevard to Angkor Wat temple, we arrived at a checkpoint where cars and motorbikes are forbidden to enter Angkor Archeological Park.  We walked to the causeway bridge which had been under construction for years and reopened last November.

With a wooden cane helping to maintain my balance, I managed to get on to the bridge. I was fascinated by the well-arranged rows of seats and the large billboard that read “Samne Angkor or Angkor Dictation.” 

On the billboard was written “The First National Dictation in Cambodia” with the logos of the ministries and other organizations sponsoring the event.

Judged by my senior appearance, I was taken for someone from the organization team or other companies. In fact, I was one of the participants. I then was guided to my seat where I could sit wherever I fancied.

Probably my journalistic instinct led me to a seat near the loudspeaker where I could clearly hear the text being read.

I was impressed by how many participants arrived early. Not yet fully risen, the sun showed a ray of golden light shining on the towers of Angkor Wat behind all the candidates.

A cold, thin and humid morning breeze touched my skin, shivering my soul. Fortunately, I had my krama (Khmer scarf) to warm up my body. 

While waiting for the dictation to start, I was daydreaming about the ancient Chinese drama where they depicted the candidates traveling to the capital or the palace to take a civil exam for the official position. I was laughing inside.

Normally, I used to be nervous when an exam was about to start. However, it was strange that this time, I was content as my first and second daughters and their husbands were sitting beside me, creating the exhilarating atmosphere that I was in the exam room with my kids.

The dictation began as a ray of the sun shone brightly on us. I was sometimes so occupied by the beauty of the sunlight that I almost missed the text read by Culture Minister Phoeurng Sackona.

Before the dictation officially began, the text was read once for us to get ready. That was when my feelings started to mess up as I kept thinking how to write this word or that word. Some words sounded the same but with different spelling while some words were difficult to write.

However, I was happy as the reading sound was reflected from the temple as if it were talking to us. I peeked at people who were busy writing down the text. They were not candidates but they wanted to test their Khmer skills as well.

It is not strange that my name is not among the top 20, oldest, or candidates with pretty handwriting. I was the third oldest candidate after a 67-year-old teacher and a 64-year-old from Battambang province who brought a hammock but was refused permission to spend the night near Angkor Wat.

My handwriting could have been better and I made lots of writing mistakes. I wholeheartedly congratulated the winners and wanted to thank the candidates who spent their time participating in the event.

I am grateful to the founders and the organizers of the event. I strongly hope that such an event will be organized annually as a part of preserving and protecting the Khmer language and our identity.

Please protect our language and start correctly writing our language.

Bou Saroeun is one of the participants in the first-ever Angkor Dictation.

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